'100% of Homes Have Been Completely Destroyed'

Taliban says earthquakes have killed nearly 3K in western Afghanistan
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 8, 2023 5:45 AM CDT
Updated Oct 9, 2023 12:12 PM CDT
'In the Very First Shake All the Houses Collapsed'
Afghan men clear the debris after an earthquake in Zenda Jan district in Herat province, of western Afghanistan, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.   (AP Photo/Omid Haqjoo)
UPDATE Oct 9, 2023 12:12 PM CDT

A series of earthquakes in Afghanistan on Saturday killed nearly 3,000 people, say Taliban officials, with the Guardian reporting that subsequent quakes as strong as 5.9 magnitude hit the area on Monday. "Vans filled with dead bodies are arriving here each minute," said a medic at a hospital in Herat city, the capital of Herat province. The BBC describes it as "a barren landscape dotted with mud brick homes," and quotes the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as saying "100% of homes are estimated to have been completely destroyed" in the city. The UN says villagers continue to use their shovels and hands to search for the missing. Outside aid only started to reach the area Monday, and the BBC reports pledges of aid from foreign countries have been sparse.

Oct 8, 2023 5:45 AM CDT

Powerful earthquakes killed at least 2,000 people in western Afghanistan, a Taliban government spokesman said Sunday. It's one of the deadliest earthquakes to strike the country in two decades. The figures couldn't be independently verified, reports the AP. The magnitude-6.3 earthquake was followed by strong aftershocks on Saturday, a spokesperson for the country's national disaster management authority said. The United States Geological Survey said the quake's epicenter was about 25 miles northwest of Herat city. It was followed by three very strong aftershocks, measuring magnitude 6.3, 5.9 and 5.5, as well as lesser shocks.

The BBC reports the areas that have suffered most "are remote and consist of mud structures." As one Herat resident explains, "In the very first shake all the houses collapsed. Those who were inside the houses were buried." On Sunday, people attempted to dig out the dead and injured with their hands in Herat, clambering over rocks and debris. Survivors and victims were trapped under buildings that had crumbled to the ground, their faces grey with dust. One video, shared online, shows people freeing a baby girl from a collapsed building after being buried up to her neck in debris. A hand is seen cradling the baby's torso as rescuers ease the child out of the ground. Rescuers said it was the baby's mother. It is not clear if the mother survived.

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"Besides the 2,060 dead, 1,240 people are injured and 1,320 houses are completely destroyed," said Abdul Wahid Rayan, a spokesman at the Ministry of Information and Culture, on Sunday. Villages have been destroyed, and hundreds of civilians are buried under the debris, he said while calling for urgent help. At least a dozen teams have been scrambled to help with rescue efforts, including from the military and nonprofit organizations like the Red Crescent.

(More earthquake stories.)

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